I did the wrong journal entry last week, so this week is actually on last weeks topic.  Sorry!

 

I took a look at two major news websites, the USA TODAY’s website, and the Washington Post’s web site.  Right away I saw some things that were good about both sites.  The USA TODAY’s site had an easy to use, color coded menu, which made sorting through the news efficient.  It was similar to the colors their actual paper uses, so I was familiar with the layout.  I had not read the Washington Post before, so I did not have anything to fall back on when looking at their site, but it had a very easy to locate menu, right at the top of the page.  The major stories of the day were convieniently located in the middle of the page, scrolling down.  At the bottom of the main stories and features was a banner with several video clips of todays news stories, which I found interesting and useful.

 

However, there was one thing that I found on both sites that drove me crazy.  The front pages went on and on and on!  It seemed like every possible section of the news paper was crammed somehow onto the front page of the website.  This made it very over whelming to continue to the bottom of the page, I did not even know where to start when trying to sort out all of the information being reported.  These sites took Maeda’s first law of simplicity, Reduce, and threw it out the window.  It felt like they just did not know when to stop when designing the front page of the website.  This leads us straight into law number two, Organize.  Organization on a news paper site is crucial to allow readers to find what they are looking for.  Otherwise, they will just get the news somewhere else.  I guess the TODAY and the Post just fell in love with law number nine: Failure.  Some thing just will never be simplified, although I do think a news site can be.  The designers and editors just need to seriously evaluate how cluttered that first page of the site looks.  

 

If you were to apply the design concepts of Shneiderman’s HMI, you would think the way to design the site to be comfortable to its human user would be to make the site as similar to the news paper as possible.  When we hold a news paper in our hands, we have an index on the first page that shows us what page certain sections are on, as well as the page numbers to some of the major stories featured on the front page.  The websites did this- and way too much more.  If I picked up a news paper and looked at the front page to see the clutter fest from those web sites, I would probably toss the paper into the trash before I sorted through all of that.  Information overload!

 

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For my final project this quarter, I intend to do a case study on the mobile technology industry in Baltic country of Estonia.  This tiny, yet successful country has made huge strides in the digital technology world, including the use of mobile technology such as cell phones.  Cell phones are used for a variety of useful tasks, such as paying parking meters and checking bus schedules.  One of the latest uses of mobile phones in Estonia is the Mobiil-ID service, which enables the user of e-services to safely verify their identity with a mobile phone, log on to an internet bank and supply a digital signature. The Mobiil-ID service is an analogue of the ID-card in a mobile phone. 

 

I intend to analyze how this technology evolved so rapidly in such a small country, especially given the short time frame that has passed since gaining independence from the Soviet Union.  I also will thoroughly look at the full range uses of the cell phone in Estonia.  

 

            The reason I have chosen this project is that I recently journeyed to Estonia, and fell in love with the country.  The full speed ahead attitude that Estonians seem to have toward new technology is something that has really taken my interest.  I was walking down the street in Tallinn, the Capitol of Estonia, when my friend was pushing buttons on her cell phone.  “Texting a friend?”, I asked her.  “No,” she replied, “I’m just maming sure we are going to catch the bus in time.”

Joy Mountford is a designer who has been working on interface design for over 20 years.  As a manager of Apple’s Human Interface Group, she helped develop SonicFinder and QuickTime.

What intrigues me the most about Joy is the wide range of projects she has worked on.  She has developed interfaces for airplanes, computers, and consumer products, working with a number of different mediums.  Beginning her career in the aviation field, she came to the US on a scholarship to do research into pilot multi-tasking.  From there she went into Artificial Intelligence  at MCC, a research consortium in Austin, Texas.  There she researched developing a kind of display world, one used not by a pilot but by a knowledge worker involved with navigating large data sets in 3D.  Her big break came when someone suggested she look into a company called Apple, which was trying to start a starting a Human Interface Group.

Joy’s experience in design interface has allowed her to recognize what are bad interfaces in products she sees in everyday life.  Mountford states, “You can find bad design and poor interfaces everywhere. On the other hand, I do think the world’s appreciation of good design for and with people is getting better, and it’s easier to find instances of good design.”

One thing I thought was interesting was Joys view on todays “all in one” products, which seems to be the driving force in todays market.  “I don’t want everything integrated into one mega-product with swollen capabilities. I don’t think that helps me do anything. It’s not what I want, and I don’t think of doing everything all the time, so it is not useful or appealing.” As part of the ‘multi-task” generation, this is strange to hear.  I had thought multi-tasking and usability were the two most important concepts in the new technology that has been coming out in recent years.  In fact, in my groups brainstorming session last week, we had thought of an idea for a device that would control the mobile, monetary, and security aspects of someones life, in addition to controlling the features of the home such as lighting!  According to Joy, we were way off the mark.  I do feel that Joy is in the minority in regards to this issue, whether she is right or wrong.

Joy has continued her career by founding the idbias design group,  which is a company set up to develop novel and unique ways for people to interact with technology.  The companies service includes interaction design, design review, user studies, and also puts on educational workshops.

Joy also frequently gives lectures at various institutions, passing on her views on interactive design to the next wave of talent.

 

Monday I had to sit and stare at an electronic box in front of my face for about 9 hours. I was on a flight from Denmark to Seattle, and the seat in front of me had a screen built in to it. I thought it was a really great idea, and it made it seem like getting through the next 9 hours would be a breeze. It was a touch screen, and when you pressed the buttons on the screen, they tried to design it as realistically as possible. There was a pause after the buttons were pushed, as if they were being pressed down by your finger and had to come back up. When the model was not in use, the screen went black so you always knew if it was on or not. When you touched the screen, it came back to life. I think they acomplished their goal of making a realistic, interactive entertainment model, that was easy to use and definitely did its job. The 9 hour flight “flew” by.

The more and more I interacted with this device, the more impressed I was with its interface.  Its usability and content made we wonder, “Why in the world are these devices not on every airplane?”.  The price of installing these devices is something I will have to look up.  I also enjoyed the fact that the device had an exceptional amount of content on it.  I could choose from a wide selection of movies, music, and even games.  And it didn’t stop there.  One could use the device to track the planes progress and find out how far and how long until the plane landed, as well as view what was below the plane from a camera mounted underneath the aircraft.  All of these features made for an enjoyable trip with enough content to keep you busy for an extended amount of time.

The device also had a remote control attached to the armrest of the seat.  The remote was shaped so it fit well in your hand, demonstrating good HMI.  Another thing which was great about the device was that although it was obviously made up using very complex technology, it was simple enough on the outside in its control features, that it was very easy to figure out how to use right away.  The creators of this device must have used much trial and error with many human subjects to arrive at this final product.  I have been on numerous flights, and used earlier version of this device, and I have never come across one that did as much as this one, and was so easy to use.  I wish every flight that I took featured one of these, and if I could pay extra to make sure I had one in front of me every time I flew, it would definitely be worth while.

ok I’m in the international terminal in Chicago O’Hare. This terminal is a dump! its all of the airlines that fly to some of the lesser traveled cities in the world. I think everyone working this airline is Polish too, the check in lady was pretty good looking. I got lost and went to the wrong side of the airport, then had to take some rickity old train to the right terminal. God I love it when they dont put the departure gate on your ticket.

I should be leaving in about 20 minutes for Warsaw. I will get there tomorrow morning, then hop on my flight to Tallinn. Hope everything goes smoothly, it would suck to get lost in the Polish airport!

allright, im leaving Seattle now. I slept maybe an hour, I was up late packing and going over last minute details. The van service is coming to pick me up. I hope I didnt forget anything. This is my first time in the SeaTac airport and Im flying United to Chicago O’Hare and then on to Warsaw Poland. Wish me luck!

P.S. its raining

Well I picked the perfect week to move to Seattle! My favorite band, Down, is on tour in support of their new album, Over the Under. The tour just started this week, and there were dates in Seattle and Vancouver. So of course, I went to both.

It was amazing, the band sounded perfect and the atmosphere is what keeps me coming back, show after show. I had never been to Vancouver before, and even though going across the border in my car sucked (they made me go through customs and did a background check on me) it was great to go and explore a new city.

Vancouver had a good feel to it, it seemed similar to Seattle in a lot of ways, yet still maintained something about it that let me know I wasnt in the US anymore. Lucky for me, I had a friend and mutual Down fan that lives in Vancouver, so I had a guide and a place to crash after the show. I could go on and on about the sights and travel experience, but the main highlight of this weekend was the two shows.

Simply put, there are not many bands I have seen live that match the stage presence and energy that Down brings every night. Fronted by who I can only describe as a hero and inspiration for me in my life, the legendary Philip Anselmo, Down consists of five of the most talented and veteran musicians on the planet. Both shows I attended this weekend featured a great set list that included songs from the new record as well as the bands previous two efforts, Nola and Down II: A Bustle in Your Hedgerow.

Each show that Down plays on their tours is titled “An Evening With Down”. An elegant title for a rocking show! The night always begins with an hour long movie consisting of home video clips of the band having fun between tour stops or practice sessions, mixed in with music videos from bands that influenced Down from the beginning. Most of the band videos are from the 70’s and 80’s, a testament to Downs roots and longevity. This also hints at why Down has developed a fan base spanning multiple generations.

For those living near a stop on this latest Down tour, I would highly recommend buying a ticket and enjoying a great night of music. Whether you find your release in the mosh pits or have a seat on the balcony, you will not be disappointed. All music lovers will find an aspect of Down they can appreciate. As Philip stated on Friday night “Down cannot be labeled, we are a genre spanning southern rock slash hard rock slash heavy metal band”.

Philip Anselmo

Vancouver Show Pictures

Seattle Show Pictures